Local Commentary

Editorial: This Bittersweet Holiday Season

It is a poignant contrast plumbing the depths of human emotion to face a holiday season so shattered by the unspeakable tragedy at a Connecticut elementary school. A veritable “slaughter of the innocents” of Biblical proportions has occurred. Twenty six and seven year old children, and a half-dozen of their caring teachers and mentors, brutally gunned down, were denied the excitement of the season, of family reunions and what might appear under their Christmas tree.

We all remember what it was like to celebrate the best holiday season of all when we were that age. No matter the religious or special cultural traditions involved, the season is all about children (of all ages) and happiness. In the sparkly eyes of laughing children we all celebrate the joy of living, and hope for the future.

So the deeply profound sadness that the entire world is experiencing following last week’s tragedy is linked to the loss of that joy, the loss for the victims, their families and for all of us who can’t help but feel the pain.

Celebrating in this special season can never really be limited to the kind of superficial fixation on shiny material things that all the TV commercials draw us toward.

Because it happens in the context of real human lives, with all their ups and downs, few of us enjoy the season without giving pause for loved ones who are gone, who are ill, who are troubled or sad. The more acute the joy, the more magnified can be its bittersweet quality. We don’t want to celebrate by closing the drapes to hide the hungry little girl selling matchsticks in the snow, even if far too often we do.

So if nothing else, maybe the tragedy of last week will cause us to do just that a little bit, or a lot, less, and not only during the holiday season.

Maybe it comes as a wake up call to our own souls, to reconsider the ways, great and small, we condone and promote hardened indifference in our world, how we dismiss what seems to stand in the way of justice and compassion as inevitable.

The collective power of a shift of personal consciousness away from cynical indifference and lives governed by expediency toward passionate conviction for the good can change the world.

With the strange coincidence of the word, “Sandy,” applied to a hurricane of epochal devastation and an elementary school name where 20 children were gunned down, America has been brutally struck right at its greatest strength, at its premiere massive urban center, and its affluent extensions, of wealth and power.

The attack was not, as in 2001, by an outside enemy, but by the twisted forces of nature, herself, storming our shores and storming a killer’s mind.

We cannot overcome this assault with hate or revenge, but only with love, including comforting and a loving resolve to prevent any more.